Updated on 11.27.11

The Christmas Spirit All Year Round

Trent Hamm

One of the best parts of this time of the year is the handful of days we spend decorating our house for Christmas. All of us are involved in the process, even our littlest one, who struggles with the hand-eye coordination needed to put ornaments on the tree.

My oldest child and I spend hours digging through the crawlspace for that one last box of items that has the tree-topper on it.

Sarah digs out the rolls of wrapping paper picked up just after Christmas the year before and digs into the process of getting items wrapped.

Our four year old dives deeply into making homemade snowflakes and Christmas trees to decorate the windows with.

We pop a bunch of popcorn and string them together for the tree, using a few dried cranberries in the middle to brighten it up with some color.

Our children try to learn the words of Christmas songs and we end up consulting Wikipedia to show them exactly what “wassail” is.

The warmth that makes this time so much fun isn’t that it’s Christmas. Christmas is just a motivator for what makes it so enjoyable.

The real joy of this season comes from the time spent together. It comes from projects that are done with the goal of bringing joy to others and to the whole family.

It’s not about spending money. It’s not about indulging in expensive things. It’s about people and time and memories.

Compared to this, the actual Christmas gift exchanges and presents are really an afterthought. I’d gladly swap anything I’ll receive this year for an afternoon or an evening spent with this kind of family bonding.

A lot of families know exactly what I’m talking about here. It’s part of the “Christmas magic.”

Here’s the really powerful thing, though. It does not have to just be “Christmas magic.”

There’s no reason not to do the same thing all throughout the year. You can do the same type of activities in January (winter decorations), February (valentines), March (springtime), April (Easter), May (gardening), June (summer), July (Independence Day), August (back to school), September (early fall), October (Halloween), and November (Thanksgiving). T

There is always a good reason to spend time together as a family, doing things like making homemade decorations, eating foods you make yourself, engaging in activities together.

It is so easy to fall into a routine of keeping the “special” family moments for the holidays and allowing so much of the rest of the year to focus on other things, things that are often expensive and focused away from the people who matter the most to you.

I say, why bother? There’s never a bad night to go home and make a homemade decoration for your home. There’s never a wrong time of the year to learn how to do something new. There’s always a great opportunity to go home and make a delicious homemade meal.

All you have to do is choose the life you want to live.

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  1. Michelle says:

    This is definitely one of the weirdest posts I’ve read in a long time. I tried responding in different ways, but I kept going around in circles…which this post seems to do. Trent must really be reaching for new ideas to be able to post twice a day.

  2. Carole says:

    I thought it was a nice Christmasy post! He put the emphasis on family life and not what to get someone who already has everything.

  3. Andrew says:

    I think Trent is grappling with the problem that you can only say so much about frugality before you begin repeating yourself over and over. Boring for both him and his readers.

    He seems to be gradually shifting his focus to giving more general “how to live” advice. This may end up being the right course, but he has a long way to go before he’s good at it. Right now, articles such as this one say nothing that hasn’t been said many times before.

  4. lurker carl says:

    Celebrating everything makes celebrations old hat. As with ice cream, it is a special treat only if you eat ice cream occassionally but not when you eat it all the time. Celebrating something every month of the year like it was Christmas would wear thin quickly.

  5. Michelle says:

    Exactly #4 lurker carl. How can Trent not recognize that? Is this post about enjoying family time (we get it already) or about celebrating everything all the time (which makes all the celebrating not as special)…or what?

  6. valleycat1 says:

    I define the idealized Christmas spirit much more broadly than just enjoying time with family or finding something to celebrate. More along the lines of good will toward men, which is a good thing to cultivate year round.

  7. Kevin says:

    When every day is special, then no day is special.

  8. Steven says:

    I hate Christmas.

  9. chuck says:

    i’m confused. didn’t trent have a post before that said if you do something too much it wasn’t special anymore? I think it was in reference to spending (like buying a fancy coffee everyday) but the effect is the same as what he posts here.

  10. kristine says:

    Steve- LOL!! Thanks for that!

    I happen to love Christmas- from Halloween through – New Years. But if saccharin sentiment and omnipresent harassment toward consumerist gluttony rubs you the wrong way, then this time of year has got to be unbearable!

    I try to finish my shopping before the start of the school year, so I can just sit back and enjoy the movies, the smells, the lights, make some handmade gifts, and not participate in mall madness.

    Oh, and I would just like to acknowledge that there are other holidays than the Christian one. The omission was weird.

    I agree that the “once a year” ritual makes it all the more special. And you know what? Setting up for holidays is fun, but a LOT of work! I would not want to do it every month at all- I’d burn out. I have an amazing hubby who splits household work evenly, but for most women I know- the holidays is a double-shift.

  11. Riki says:

    Fun with Christmas traditions/decorating/spending time with loved ones — I’m with you there, Trent.

    Making Christmas an enjoyable time without focusing on expensive gifts — I’m definitely with you there.

    I have a lot of Christmas traditions that I really enjoy and look forward to. Baking (eating), painting and crafting, the annual chinese-food-under-the-tree party, etc. I love Christmas.

    Where you lose me is when you turn this post into another how-everybody-should-live diatribe. If every day is special, than no day is special (thanks, Kevin!). I don’t get the conclusion you make and honestly, I don’t choose to live my life in the same way you do. Are you saying that those family values you promote are a good way to keep yourself from spending unnecessary money? I suppose you’re right. But it seems like an odd way to make that point.

    This post is almost like a stream of consciousness rather than a post designed to make a specific point.

  12. Johanna says:

    What a sad world you all must live in where spending quality time with your family is something you can only do once a year as a “special treat,” lest it cease to feel special enough.

    I’m being facetious, but only sort of.

    I think Trent has a good point here that even goes beyond spending quality time with family. A lot of what we think of as “Christmas magic” (many Christmas songs, decorations, customs, etc.) draws on traditions and cultures that we more or less ignore the rest of the year, but there’s no reason we have to. If you like “God Rest Ye Merry, Gentlemen” (just to pick one), there are lots more songs from the same tradition that have a similar feel, but that aren’t about Christmas. You can delve into them and learn them and enjoy that kind of music all year round.

  13. Gretchen says:


    I will not be reading a “how to live” advice blog.

  14. Teresa says:

    Did anyone notice that this year they are using store bought wrapping paper and not brown craft paper to wrap their gifts?

  15. kristine says:

    Gretchen- you know what? You’re right. Try wisebread dot com. Gads of articles to choose from every day, though lacking in-depth conversational comment sections. Less preachy, more practical.

  16. kc says:

    GetRichSlowly dot org

    Trent’s phoning it in at this point. TSD desperately needs guest writers or a co-blogger.

  17. Kathleen says:

    “Digging” for hours to find a box of decorations? Sounds like someone has too much Stuff and wastes his time/money managing it! ;-)

    Surely you’re speaking in hyperbole when you say it takes “hours” to accomplish this small task, but there are certainly crisper and more effective ways of communicating the same sentiment (valuing time with family, etc.).

  18. Justin says:

    Is it just me or is this blog becoming progressively worse and unfocused? I used to come here for interesting and fun tips on how to save money. Now, every time I read a post on this blog I feel like I am being lectured. This post especially is pretty pretentious and assumes that everyone has a perfect family with a mom and dad, and that if we aren’t celebrating the holiday spirit year-round, we are doing something wrong. The last time I was here, I was being lectured about not surfing the internet while at work. This type of generalized advice is not helpful at all. Haven’t read a helpful or interesting post in a while. This has become a very judgmental blog.

  19. Kayla K says:

    I am surprised how many people had a negative reaction to this post. This post reminds me of how I was raised.

  20. SLCCOM says:

    When working with young children, tasks can take hours! You have to teach, show, let them fumble their way through it, fix what they did wrong, laugh, etc.

    For young children, a year is a very long time, and a month is a long time. Celebrating something once a month while children are very young isn’t going to jade them. Consider that for the four-year-old, a year is a quarter of their entire lifetime.

  21. Steve says:

    Wow, some really negative posts to a Christmas article. Bah, humbug rules, I guess :)

    True, not much financial advice in this article but I hope people remember that getting your financial house in order is a means to an end and not the end itself.

  22. pmcgall64 says:

    I don’t get it. If you are sick and tired of Trents writing, find something that does not make you sick and tired.

    Move on to some new material or whatever it is you are searching for. I get tired of the complaining. Its not like its costing you anything.

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